Tech ex­pect­ing test of tough­ness vs. Pitt

Past four meet­ings have been de­cided by one pos­ses­sion

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - SPORTS - BY MIKE NIZIOLEK

Vir­ginia Tech de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Bud Fos­ter has been on the side­line for all 17 games the Hok­ies have played against Pitt. In the 15 of those where he’s led the de­fense, eight of the games have been de­cided by one pos­ses­sion, in­clud­ing the past four.

“They’ve been a lot of tough, hard-nosed foot­ball games,” Fos­ter said. “And I ex­pect this to be one too. I know that we’ve beaten them the last cou­ple years and it’s go­ing to be se­nior

day up there this year, and there’s a lot on the line. They’re in the lead of this thing, and they want to keep it go­ing.”

Pitts­burgh sits atop the Coastal Di­vi­sion at 4-1 in the con­fer­ence with three games to play. Vir­ginia Tech needs to win out to make the ACC cham­pi­onship game. The Hok­ies need to win at least two of their last three games to keep their streak of 25 straight bowl ap­pear­ances alive.

But nei­ther side is look­ing at the big pic­ture as they pre­pare for Satur­day’s game.

“Noth­ing else mat­ters,” Pitt coach Pat Nar­duzzi said. “Those stand­ings mean ab­so­lutely noth­ing. They re­ally don’t. What are we go­ing to do, stare at those, Google those all day, look at them on Twit­ter. If that’s our fo­cus, you got a prob­lem.”

Nar­duzzi spent much of the week fo­cused on slow­ing down Vir­ginia Tech’s of­fense. On the ACC’s weekly tele­con­fer­ence, the coach praised quar­ter­back Ryan Wil­lis’ play­mak­ing abil­ity and fret­ted over the Hok­ies’ screen game.

Vir­ginia Tech had three screens in the first half against Bos­ton Col­lege each go for 20-plus yards.

“They’re an ex­cel­lent screen team, and they’ve got tons of them,” Nar­duzzi said. “They’ve got Tscreens, they’ve got what we call jail­break screens, now screens, bub­ble screens. But we’ve prac­ticed all week, and prob­a­bly the hard­est ones to re­ally scheme against are those tail­back screens be­cause they do a nice job in their screens of — it’s al­most like a 1,000-one, 1,000-two, 1,000-three, and then the back will get out, and the line does a great job of pro­tect­ing it and then get­ting down and get­ting on peo­ple.”

While Nar­duzzi praised Vir­ginia Tech’s of­fense, it re­mains a group search­ing for con­sis­tency. The Hok­ies have stum­bled in re­cent weeks af­ter strong starts. Things won’t get any eas­ier this week against a Pitts­burgh de­fense that likes to “tighten up” be­hind a wellex­e­cuted zone scheme putting pusher on op­pos­ing re­ceivers to make plays on the out­side.

“That’s their de­fense, that’s what they do, that’s what they al­ways do,” Vir­ginia Tech of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Brad Cor­nelsen said. “There go­ing to make you earn it all.”

The Hok­ies pulled a win from the jaws of de­feat last year against Pitts­burgh with an in­cred­i­ble goal line stand. Pitts­burgh lost 20-14 af­ter com­ing up short on four straight chances from the 1-yard line.

Vir­ginia Tech coaches have brought up the mo­ment this week as the team pre­pares for the re­match to high­light how close the se­ries has been be­tween the Coastal Di­vi­sion ri­vals in re­cent years.

“Look at the ex­e­cu­tion and the tough­ness and the dis­ci­pline level it’s taken as a team to pull off the last two year’s worth,” Fuente said. “Two years ago we went up there and they were very, very good. If I’m not mis­taken, they beat Clem­son that year, and won a game by 3 points. This past year, it took a goal-line stand on se­nior day to win the game. And it’s go­ing to take a sim­i­lar type of tough­ness and ex­e­cu­tion and grit to ac­com­plish a sim­i­lar or the same re­sult.”

MATT GEN­TRY/THE ROANOKE TIMES

De­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Bud Fos­ter said when­ever Vir­ginia Tech and Pitts­burgh play, the games have “been a lot of tough, hard-nosed foot­ball games. And I ex­pect this to be one too.”

VIRGINIATECHATPITTSBURGH Satur­day: 3:30 p.m. TV: ESPNURa­dio: 910, 96.1, 2 p.m.

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